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COMMENTS

This week’s TL;DR is an epic topic: What is the standard for beauty in Korea and how does it differ from North America, and vice versa? Wow, that’s a doosie of a question…it feels like we should submit this blog for grading once we’re finished with it (if we stay up all night and hand it in on time). Well to begin with, we should mention that these beauty points are what we feel the Korean media emphasizes as beauty, and what our Korean friends might mention in passing conversation, but this does not represent every Korean. It feels like we shouldn’t even have to mention that point, but we’re trying to cut off the “I’M KOREAN AND YOU’RE WRONG” comments from happening. ^^ We can’t cover every point here so we’re going to go with our Top 3.

Pale Complexions vs Tanning

Jersey Shore Tanning

Umm, that's just gross.

It seems to us that Korea has finely tuned the idea of beauty into several traits which are currently trendy, but we have no idea if they were always trendy or if this is a recent thing. The most apparent one is lack of tanning. Anywhere you go in Korea you’ll see people walking around with beautiful parasols, ajumma visors or hats, arm covers, and just about every type of cream comes with a 15+ SPF built into it. The heated debate about why Korean men and woman want to have pale skin falls into two categories. Once being the historical idea: in a nutshell, tanned skin means you are a poor peasant working outdoors and pale skin represents luxury, wealth, and lack of wrinkles. The other argument being that Korean people are trying to look more and more Caucasian, which obviously gets a lot of angry comments from Koreans. We don’t know which side is more correct, but Martina is already Caucasian and she has always hidden from the sun under parasols (even when in Canada) to prevent her skin from instantly burning, so I guess that makes her…a vampire. This seems to really differ from other parts of the world, especially where having a golden tan = going on vacation. The idea of going to a tanning bed is just a horrifying idea to all our Korean friends; even on the beach you can rent pre-set up beach umbrellas to avoid the sun at all costs.

Mono eyelids vs Double eyelids

Gain Mono Eyelid

Gain Doesn't have Double Eyelids, and she's freaking beautiful

Ah, the eyelid. Something that we, as North Americans, have never seemed to notice until we came to Korea. Who knew that tiny piece of skin was SO important to looking beautiful? Having “double eyelids”, or a fold/crease above your eye is a concept majority of North Americans have just taken for granted. In fact, we don’t even have a concrete name for it, but in Korea, it’s 쌍꺼풀 (ssanggeopul). If you’re a celebrity, you probably had surgery done to get it, but there are still some people (like Gain and Rain) that haven’t had it done. If you can’t afford surgery, then you might just go for some Double Eyelid Tape instead. Of course, arguments rage about why this surgery is so popular in Korea, and while many people say it’s to achieve a more Western looking eye, others argue that it’s just for the sake of beauty. We think the real question to be asked here is why having big eyes or a double eyelid is considered to be beautiful? It’s not like Rain is suddenly not good looking because of his monolid, he just looks distinctly Asian and we don’t think that there is anything wrong with that.

The V-Line Face

V Line Face Drink

Putting two bottles by your face, or in your stomach, will not change your face.

The concept of the “v-line” jaw being a coveted beauty trait makes us…uncomfortable. From a North American perspective, you’re either born with a certain jaw shape or you’re not. You’re face is round, oval, heart, triangle, square, rectangular and so on. Really good hairdressers can tell what style will suit you based just on your face shape and you can look at many celebrities (who all have different types of face shapes) for inspiration. In Korea, not so much. We have never seen anybody praised for having a cute, round face or a striking heart shaped face. It’s literally the “v-line” jaw bone or it’s not reported. The reason why this makes us so uncomfortable is because there is plastic surgery readily available if you want to shave down your jaw bone. We see ads on the subway as if it’s totally an everyday event to change your entire jaw structure. The other reason reports on the epic v-line makes us uncomfortable is because majority of those photos taken by celebs are angled in a oh-so-clever fashion to create the illusion of a “v-line”, but in this illusion, tons of products are sold to help “trim” your jaw and face fat. Sorry Korea, we just don’t believe that a plastic face roller can change my face size. With that idea, the vast amount of time I spend sleeping on one side of my face should have horribly distorted my face by now.

In conclusion Professor Internet, it seems to us that growing up in a multi-cultural society (anywhere in the world) has a huge effect on what one thinks is beautiful. We feel like this is the most important thing to remember when comparing beautify standards of Korea to North America. As a Canadian from Toronto, it’s nearly impossible to pinpoint what an “ideal” Canadian looking woman would look like, since we grew up with so many different face shapes, skin tones, hair types, hair colours, body sizes, and eye colours.

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  1. impressivebreast

    I think that korean girls have smaller breasts, here is a solution http://www.impressive-breast.com

  2. Thanks for the great share. seems like you guys are having such a great time in South Korea ! Would love to visit country one day.

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  4. I know this video is older, but I have some information to add to the conversation. In America, where I live, we are taught that everyone is unique, but that everyone is STILL beautiful in their own way, no matter if you’re curvy or skinny, tall or short, dark skinned or light skinned! Everyone IS beautiful in their own way, and many Americans preach this belief. BUT, to be honest, not many people truly believe this statement. Someone might say that this is true, and then bash the new girl, saying she’s fat and therefore ugly. There definitely IS a standard of beauty in America. It’s NOT always the same for everyone, but for most people, there is a certain standard that you must meet to be said “beautiful” or “pretty”. For girls, this is: thin but toned bodies, an acne-free face, tan or “sun kissed” skin, bright, white, perfectly straight teeth, long legs, etc. For guys: strong jaw bone, abs or slightly muscular body, tallness, tan or darker skin, an acne-free face, etc. Now, I know this isn’t what all Americans find beautiful, but most people I know or even people I see on the internet agree that this is usually what a person must be to be considered “hot” or “gorgeous.” In America, though, we are also taught to embrace our body and who we are as a person. Not too many people do this, and many people succumb to the pressure and diet like crazy. Here, also, girls bash on their own figures and constantly feel the need to pick at themselves and find out whats wrong with themselves…
    *ahem*
    Sorry, I’m now rambling. Anyways, although there is not a certain “idol” or person you must look like in America, there is definitely a “who’s hot and who’s not list” thing going on. There is a sort of “standard” which does not apply to everyone here, though. One person may think Person A is ugly while another person may think Person A is the most beautiful thing they’ve ever seen. And then when personalities come into the mix, things get crazy complicated…
    DISCLAIMER: This is based on MY experiences where I live in the southern U.S.A. I’m not sure if this is the definite truth for everyone in all parts of America.

  5. Your topic title should be renamed to “Korean vs Caucasian Standards of Beauty”, and also, the concept of beauty you described for Koreans is also the same concept of beauty that is universal to all human races, which is that Neoteny (physical resemblance to children- big eyes, small face, milky skin) is inherently attractive as a physical trait. It is just that in Korea (as well as other Indo-Chinese/Oriental races), it is held in a higher regard.

  6. I totally agree with what you said about jaw and face shape here in the U.S. If that’s how you naturally look, that’s how you naturally look. Plastic surgery is frowned upon (unless you’re a celeb with tons of money and an image to keep up, though people still talk trash about it anyway) because you should be comfortable in your own skin. The thing in the U.S. is that others should like you for who you are — you shouldn’t have to change, unless it’s for the better (beneficial to you, to others, in a good way). But in South Korea, you should look a certain way. It’s like racism in its own country, honestly. You SHOULD have this skin color, this type of style, this type of jawline, this weight, be this size, etc. Maybe it’s because they’re not as diverse? As liberal? Idk, maybe it’s because I’m used to America’s culture, but theirs seem so unfair.

  7. Cindy Ung

    totally love the Korean fashion and makeup, especially because I live in Korea
    I’ve been blogging about beauty and food of Korea here http://www.cunggie.com
    my friends always ask me where to get stuff and now there’s finally a website !
    http://www.mootta.com

  8. wait I’m confused. I thought heart-shape and v-line was the same thing

  9. Jershey Dionisio

    i want to you introduse your site.

  10. Jershey Dionisio

    hi msta

  11. Hi Martina and Simon ( cute pink-haired girls first !) ! I’m from France ! I want to know : What about sex in Korea ? Age for first time or habits… You know, they don’t show sexy things or talks about sex, seems like a pure and innocent country without sexuality, even for idols and it’s pretty awkward for a french girl (Paris, the city of love, you know…). Thank you ! <3 ( SPUDGY IS THE BEST !)

  12. Hi Simon & Martina ! Ok, I’ll get right to it : What about sex in Korea ! Korea seem like really pure and like purity etc… Even idols seems like don’t have sex or there is any sex in dramas… Thanks a lot !

  13. thanks for your nice report. but i think korean are batshit insane when it comes to: i want to look caucasian, but i also want to have a pale skin like a basement dweller. make up your mind. be proud to look korean and not being a plastic frankenstein monster.

  14. my question: Do they (Korean people) like strangers? Do they find us attractive? Oh, I’m courious yeeeahh!!!! :)

  15. Ok…. why on God’s blue Earth…. did you put Jersey Shore people in an article about beauty standards? That is an insult to the beauty standards of both North America AND Korea.

  16. honestnoshameme

    Im Korean and i have double eyelids but i dont have insecurities with my eyes instead i have insecurities with my nose. And it is very true that going to get plastic surgery is a normal thing in South Korea. I told my mom about my insecurities about my nose (i got into a accident when i was little, so the bridge is alittle flat compared to other people). My mother offered me plastic surgery on my nose(smaller,higher,slimmer) and eyes (i want it bigger), which i was delighted to hear. But in every “good” thing ( PLASTIC SURGERY is not good T^T but in my case *in my mind* its good) a bad thing comes along with it. My dad seemed disappointed with my decision to get plastic surgery but told me that i could get it when i go back to SK (which is in 2 years) and im 14 rite now.

  17. Look at Gain’s past pic, I think she shaved her jaw and rhinoplasty (still doubt the rhino cause it looks so natural unlike other celeb)

  18. Could some one please verify this for me? I had a friend who seemed entirely convinced that all Korean people underwent surgery to become the “ideal image”, and that plastic surgery was considered some kind of right of passage in Korean culture. This seemed slightly ridiculous to me, not to mention expensive for everyone, and I was hoping someone might be able to clear this up.

  19. Back when I was younger, my mom would tell me that every new year I need to jump 10 times while pinching my nose so that my nose wouldn’t me flat.
    Also, back when I was 7, my mom told me that I wasn’t allowed to play outside anymore because “my skin was getting too dark”.
    I used to always wonder about these small things, but this video has really cleared a lot of it up.

    • My mom did and said similar things. I wasn’t allowed to play out in the sun and my sister actually was vitamin d defficiant as a child because of this, but being fair was more important than that.

  20. Awh geez, i’m half korean half american and I didn’t know half of this crap. I do a have a V shaped face though. :D And a eye smile,double-eyelids, and black hair.

  21. Actually, not to contradict anyone but I worked in the beauty industry this last year and part of my training was learning how to teach women to shade their face into the ideal face shape which happens to be oval. People strive to have that face shape.

  22. thank you i enjoyed your video and i totally agree with your point of view about that there are no ideal of beauty standards. my oppinion is that the korean pop culture is based on teens. in korean major music channels its impossible to see diverse music genre. you can see some different musics sometimes but most of them are idol dance music. it has been like this already since 1990. people who don’t like idol music, they won’t be able to find korean music of their interest on tv. the music channels tend to focus only on teenagers. lots of people in our society are annoyed by this fact. also the korean beauty industries support the korean idols for their success. for their own goods selling their products, they make the teenagers believe in existing of beauty standards. me as an adult makes me a lot of concerns, because the cultures should come out from people naturally and not produced by pop stars or by beauty industries. the products made by tv media showing pop stars and beauty companies should not force people to believe in them for their goods. it’s like a brainwash to us. me as a korean, i love my country and culture, but i don’t like the fact that adult people use the naivity of teenagers becoming their consumers. sadly it’s all business.

  23. Sephiroth

    Why do so many PALE AMERICANS complain so much about different races.
    They are obsessed with race. Are they that insecure, do they have to
    make their recessive gene complexes so obvious? SO WHAT IF SOME ASIAN WHAT A BIG EYES IT’S THE SAME AS PALE BIG NOSED AMERICANS WANT TO BE TAN

  24. It’s pretty unfair to leave out the fact that many koreans have “double eyelids”, “big eyes”, “v-lines”, and “small faces’ without having surgery or using products. All of these are naturally occurring characteristics. I just feel like this whole thing implies that koreans are never naturally beautiful (according to their own standards, of course), and that they must have surgery and/or use products to achieve any one of these characteristics. Even still, in no way do I disagree with the use of these products or surgeries; I just think the way this was all expressed is offensive. I know it is not intentional, but that is just the vibe that I’ve gotten from it. Just for kicks, can I also add that “white” people also have eyelid surgery? Megan Fox is just one example.

    I don’t mean to be a hater here, but this is just what I feel.
    Thanks

    • fuuko4869

      Thanks for your input :)
      I was just scrolling through the newly submitted comments and was surprised that someone was reading such an old post.
      In regards to what you said, most of the fans here do not take what Simon and Martina say as the be-all-and-end-all. Many people ask them to talk about topics that can be very touchy, thus we appreciate that they are giving their own personal opinion from their own personal experiences, which may not be reflective of the ENTIRE Korean society, especially since they’re speaking as foreigners and not locals. They try to include disclaimers in these cases, but it is difficult to do that for every point that they discuss – it would end up being a very, very long video. I’m sorry if you were offended.

  25. Lily Yuri Kim

    I never really noticed face size, double eyelids, white skin, etc because I grew up in America but I’ve had conversations with my mother over the years where she talked about how she’s glad my sister and I inherited our dad’s face size and not her’s (weird conversation how if I put my hand over my face, it would cover everything from chin to hairline), how our aunt had slightly darker skin when we were picking up pressed powder to send to Korea, and how happy she was when my face settled in middle school into having double eyelids (yay puberty?).

    And about surgery, I’m visiting Korea and my cousin looked almost unrecognizable. She definitely had her eyes and nose done and had milk pale skin and I could barely see the old her. I could recognize my male cousins with no problems but I was like whoaaa when I saw her.

  26. oh those double eyelids! lol
    I found out what actualy words “double eyelids” mean only when I got hooked by K-pop and K-dramas! I seriously didn’t know! XD

  27. Wills Buenaflor Gomez

    I can’t believe there’s actually an ideal type for beauty in Korea. Here, in where I live, as long as your facial features go really well with each other, you’re considered beautiful, whether you are tanned or fair-skinned.

    On the side note, I didn’t even understand the concept of mono eyelids and double eyelids until I discovered K-pop.

  28. HAVImoral

    I don’t entirely agree with this.. Koreans do not have some ridiculous, unobtainable standard of beauty…. if any country does it is america i mean look at jersey shore! I just got back from visiting Seoul with my fiance, he is South Korean, and my darker complexion didn’t make his family think of me as less attractive they were very frank about it actually… His mom actually said i was even prettier than shed expected upon finding out i was Dominicano DUH DUH DUHHHHHH… they were thrown of by my waist length hair by me being black (thought i was a sunburned) lol. I was very nervous we i did go because of all the horror stories or racism.. but all i experienced was curiousity… not bigotry… they had never seen a black hispanic woman before and were amused upon learning i didnt speak english ( got to love google translate) i guess what im saying is dont judge a book by its cover….. i was scared of america… not that bad… and i was scared of South Korea I was beautiful 

  29. interesting…! have you heard of 동안(baby face)? I believe it’s a new beauty trend in Korea!

  30. Allison Williams

    I have noticed that (being in Taiwan) that bigger eyes are ideal-in fact there are some people I know who have been made fun of (in not nessisarily bad ways) for having “small eyes” and many of my girl Taiwanese friends are always complaining about their eye size, how their eyes are so small/squinty and ugly, and how they envy/wish they could have my eyes (I’m Caucasian) to which I always reply “Girl, you crazy, your eyes are beautiful, they are the exact same size as my eyes, and I wish I could have YOUR eyes!” I love asian’s eyes, I think they are so beautiful.

  31. haha…i don’t agree about korean beauty standard is v-line and big eye..
    i think it’s GLOBAL beauty standard…
    if not, why woman use EYELINER and FACE CONTOUR..?? XD
    for big eye and small face…right?

  32. irritablevowel

    Oh, there is definitely a western beauty ideal.  It’s just that what we choose to focus on allows for enough variation to give the impression of variety (if that makes sense).  I’m staring at Marie Claire right now, and it’s telling me that my: 

    Nose should be long and narrow

    Lips should be pouty. 

    Hair should be shiny and bouncy (color doesn’t matter, as long as it’s shiny)

    Body should be thin, but not too thin.  I should also be tall, but not too tall.   Breasts, bottoms and hips can vary (my humps).

    Face shape is not really important, though models tend to have oval shapes.  

    It’s a standard that favors Europeans, but by allowing wiggle room with face shape, humps, and hair color, it can accommodate any ethnic background.  Check out Chris Rock’s documentary “Good Hair”, where he discusses the BILLIONS of dollars African-American women spend every year in pursuit of “ideal” hair.   

  33. Just wanted to say that I like how you added some pics to the written part of this post. It added a lot to what you wrote!
    ps you guys rock!

  34. Anonymous

    I wonder if you guys could do one about korean attitudes vs american attitudes? Because i read online that seungri isn’t liked that much by korean netizens because he’s cocky, but i love his confidence. Also, what are some likeable and socially accepted characteristics of women?

  35. Anonymous

    ㅋㅋ 이상형이란 단어를 가지고 저리 해석을 못하다니 ㅉㅉㅉ. I’m not going to go in detail saying this but you guys are misunderstanding the term ‘IDEAL.’ Define 이상형; just ask some random Korean person, i don’t think it’s that hard.

  36. Anonymous

    ㅋㅋ 이상형이란 단어를 가지고 저리 해석을 못하다니 ㅉㅉㅉ. I’m not going to go in detail saying this but you guys are misunderstanding the term ‘IDEAL.’ Define 이상형; just ask some random Korean person, i don’t think it’s that hard.

  37. I naturally have very pale skin and I burn instantly, so I always cover myself with strong SPF. I also don’t like tanning because during very sunny and bright weather I get sympthoms of claustrophoby (seriously! O.O) so I usually stay in the shadow. So basically I’m usually pretty pale, even after holidays. But I definitely find pale skin much prettier than tanned one – and I’m Caucasian. I go after version that pale skin = delicacy, luxury etc. I find milk-skinned girls beautiful as well, but it differs with men, because I like either porcelain-type or dark-type ^^ That’s why I consider Korean guys as totally awesome as well as latino guys (not ALL of them, though).

    And wow, notice that even if the difference for us, Caucasians, isn’t that big – either darker guys, like Lee Minho, and milk-skinned ones, like Key, are totally LOVED in Korea ^^ And they kinda represent different styles.

  38. I naturally have very pale skin and I burn instantly, so I always cover myself with strong SPF. I also don’t like tanning because during very sunny and bright weather I get sympthoms of claustrophoby (seriously! O.O) so I usually stay in the shadow. So basically I’m usually pretty pale, even after holidays. But I definitely find pale skin much prettier than tanned one – and I’m Caucasian. I go after version that pale skin = delicacy, luxury etc. I find milk-skinned girls beautiful as well, but it differs with men, because I like either porcelain-type or dark-type ^^ That’s why I consider Korean guys as totally awesome as well as latino guys (not ALL of them, though).

    And wow, notice that even if the difference for us, Caucasians, isn’t that big – either darker guys, like Lee Minho, and milk-skinned ones, like Key, are totally LOVED in Korea ^^ And they kinda represent different styles.

  39. I naturally have very pale skin and I burn instantly, so I always cover myself with strong SPF. I also don’t like tanning because during very sunny and bright weather I get sympthoms of claustrophoby (seriously! O.O) so I usually stay in the shadow. So basically I’m usually pretty pale, even after holidays. But I definitely find pale skin much prettier than tanned one – and I’m Caucasian. I go after version that pale skin = delicacy, luxury etc. I find milk-skinned girls beautiful as well, but it differs with men, because I like either porcelain-type or dark-type ^^ That’s why I consider Korean guys as totally awesome as well as latino guys (not ALL of them, though).

    And wow, notice that even if the difference for us, Caucasians, isn’t that big – either darker guys, like Lee Minho, and milk-skinned ones, like Key, are totally LOVED in Korea ^^ And they kinda represent different styles.

  40. Margaret Kim

    My asian friends always tell me how jealous they are that I have double eyelids. I think this whole obsession with a specific beauty is just silly. Don’t you wish they are able to see different types of beauty and that it can be exotic, not ugly? No wonder there are so many clones in Korea. (I can say this for myself since I am Korean, raised in a 100% western culture.)

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